BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for November 19, 2006 - November 25, 2006

10 things we didn't know this time last week

17:20 UK time, Friday, 24 November 2006

Snippets harvested from the week's news, chopped, diced and sliced for easy consumption.

1. The age of consent in Northern Ireland is 17, as opposed to 16 in the rest of the UK. More details

2. A digital radio uses between 12 and 20 times the energy that an analogue radio does.

3. The phrase "dead reckoning" means navigating traditionally, by charts and compass.

4. George Bush is the first president since Jimmy Carter not to subscribe to the Guardian Weekly.

5. Male African golden web orb spiders have two penises, both of which drop off during sex.

6. There are 6.5m sets of fingerprints on file in the UK. More details

7. About 60% of drivers stopped by police do not give their true identity. More details

8. Heroin addicts commit on average 432 offences a year, according to Chief Constable Howard Roberts. More details

9. Michael Jackson watches I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here.

10. Iceland's population is about the same as that of Doncaster. More details

(Sources, where stories not linked - 1: Observer, 12 Nov; 2: Feedback, BBC Radio 4, 19 Nov; 3: Guardian, 18 Nov; 4: Guardian, 18 Nov. 5: The Times, 21 Nov. 9: PA, 24 Nov.

Seen 10 things? Send us a picture to use next week.

Your Letters

17:06 UK time, Friday, 24 November 2006

Having appeared on the original Come Dancing (North Twenty Formation Team) and having also played a decent level of club cricket in my younger days, I can confirm that cricket and dancing skills – poise, balance, timing and athleticism – have a lot in common.
Gerry, Leighton Buzzard

In reference to your advert for the Ashes coverage "Catch every ball". I would like to point out that if we actually could, we would be over there playing and not here getting embarrassed.
Meghann Ashpool, Thurso, Scotland

To Martin in London re: the feature on tea houses not having any pictures of women. (Thursday’s letters) Presumably you didn't read the captions which said that tea houses were traditionally male clubs....
Naomi Perilli, Sussex

How can anyone judge the caption competition entries? After reading the first dozen or so I just want to scream out loud.
Herbert G, Leeds
MM Note: Them's the breaks. We can only work with what we're given.

Can any monitorers suggest a flexicon entry for the misuse of pictures which match the word but not the meaning? See the picture used for the Plastic paper to 'cut' emissions story for an example!
David Manley, Scotland

Caption competition result

12:39 UK time, Friday, 24 November 2006



It’s time for the caption competition results.

This week’s picture showed world leaders in traditional silk tunics at a summit in Hanoi, Vietnam.

1. Nick
No matter what the occasion the "kick me" Post-it note still raises a chuckle.

2. Michael Brown
Members of boy band G7 wait in the wings for the audition

3. Phil
Protocol Harum

4. Simon Rooke
Aw, go on George, tell him you just nuked North Korea, I double dare you.

5. Stig
Trinny and Susannah advise you guys too, huh?

6. Nick McDonnell
I only said 'Good morning, Vietnam'.

Thanks to all who entered. Check back later this afternoon for the entries that failed to make the cut.

Paper Monitor

12:00 UK time, Friday, 24 November 2006

If you're maintaining a night TV vigil through the first, bleak days of the latest Ashes series, there's no respite to be found in the newspapers.

On its masthead, the Daily Telegraph advertises some true, old-fashioned, moaning misery in the shape of Geoffrey Boycott's cricket analysis. But above all today, it's all about hospitals.

Like the many of the papers, the broadsheet's main picture has the late former spy Alexander Litvinenko staring out of his deathbed. In patient's robes, hairless and with monitors attached to his chest, the image makes an alarming contrast to previous snaps of an imposing-looking man in middle life.

The world of intrigue gives the papers much to ponder. The Times takes testimony from close friends, looks at the eye-opening development of deadly drugs for spies and follows the key figures fingered in the case.

Even on the Independent's typically alternative front page, there's little light. It relegates the spy story to page nine, but sticks with a medical theme to detail the "emergency" taking place on mixed sex wards. NHS problems can be a terminal subject, but it adds the spice of very personal testimonies - all naked patients, bits hanging out of beds and Scrabble interrupted by flashers. Paper Monitor is keeping its blood pressure in check.

Nudity again invades the front pages, not on the red-topped usual suspects, but the Guardian. It reports on the phenomena of Lactivists - breast-baring American activists who have laid siege to airport check in desks in protest at a breast-feeding mother being thrown off a flight. Blimey.

Only the tabloids themselves attempt to lift the mood. In the Sun, Britney Spears threatens to kill off the trend for leopard-print in just one picture, as she stumbles out for the night with fellow party-girl Paris Hilton. And the Daily Mirror brings us "chemistry" rumours from the set of Strictly Come Dancing. Now there's something worth staying tuned for, just one more sleep...

Daily Mini-Quiz

08:52 UK time, Friday, 24 November 2006

Yesterday we asked, with the world pie-eating champs in Wigan, what's the nickname of champion pie eater Anthony Danson. One-third of you correctly said the Anaconda. A quarter said Six Bellies, and 43% said the Concrete Mixer. Today's mini-question is on the Magazine index now.

Your Letters

16:04 UK time, Thursday, 23 November 2006

I read your picture story on Chinese tea houses with interest. Why is it that the people drinking at the tea houses seem to be all men? Is this always the case or did the photographer just happen to think these were the most interesting shots?
Martin, London

Re: Biro story. I am sure all the pedants would think it easier to get the ink to flow around, rather than through the ball.
Ralph, Cumbria

What's with Jack McConnell's head and hands? They are massive in relation to his body. The public demands to know.
Tony, Glasgow

The Sun as dignified as never promotes Chas & Cam renting out their new property as B & B. Well here in the county of Pembrokeshire we treat all our guests as part of the family... unless you are a Sun reader, they go camping, plenty sites!
Tim Mcmahon, Pennar, Wales

Re: Iceland story. Does one eccentric in 290,000 a high enough occurrence to count as often?
James Hayward, Eindhoven, The Netherlands

Since MM attracts a large amount of mail from self-confessed Pedants, and more often than not the claims that the Pedants make are subsequently proved to be untrue by a post-Pedant rebuff, shouldn't we have a hall of shame for Pedants whose nit-picking subsequently turns out to be unfounded? Maybe we could call them nit-wit-pickers?
James Carter, Manningtree, UK

Dear Father Christmas, I've been very good this year. I've eaten my porridge every day. Could I please have a wallchart of bumper stickers for Christmas? Pretty please?
Sarah, London

Paper Monitor

11:19 UK time, Thursday, 23 November 2006

In Thursday’s papers, the most striking images, appearing prominently in both tabloid and broadsheets, are a set of within-the-womb wildlife pictures. These pre-birth elephants, dolphins and dogs are portrayed in their floating, unearthly state, unaware of the weird world on the outside. These innocent animals still haven't even heard of wallcharts.

The fad for science-type pictures continues in the Daily Mail, with the modestly-entitled “most amazing space photographs in the universe”. These pictures, taken by the Hubble space telescope, provide two pages of multi-coloured spirals and splurges – with names such as the Sombrero Galaxy and the Ant Nebula.

The latter, a shimmering cloud of colours, 6,000 light years from earth is called an “ant” because it “resembles an ant”. Space ants maybe, not the kind in Paper Monitor’s back garden.

The Sun has an intriguing feature. What was Hitler saying in those silent film clips of his home life? According to a fancy piece of lip-reading technology, in one clip, he says to Eva Braun: “I understand you didn’t like the movie last night. I know what you want. You want Gone With the Wind.”

It’s one of those fragments of small talk that raises more questions than it answers. Did they ever get to see the film? What did they watch instead? Did they like comedies or tragedies?

Meanwhile the Daily Mail delivers the ultimate royal gossip headline, combining a heady mixture of nudge-nudge and reader offer: “Love nest where you can sleep in Charles and Camilla’s bed.”

As the Sun explains, Prince Charles is “going into the B&B business”, renting out a cottage in Wales. And the perks for prospective renters? “Guests can use their bed, sit on their loo and soak in their bath when the royal couple are away.” It’s beginning to sound more like the Royle Family than the royal family already.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:15 UK time, Thursday, 23 November 2006

Wednesday's Daily Mini-Quiz challenged readers to identify what the Kazakh president said about the film, Borat. The correct answer - that there's no such thing as bad publicity - was spotted by 26%. Just a fraction opted for "I don't do film reviews" and "The joke is not on Kazakhstan" - and a massive 60-odd% wrongly said it was all of the above. Today's quiz is on the Magazine index now.

Your Letters

15:39 UK time, Wednesday, 22 November 2006

I think you might want to change your headline for the article about Ford open prison. "Prisoners saunter from jail" seems more appropriate!
Cat, London, UK

Re: finding a name for TV programatical juxtaposition (Letters, Tuesday). Would the word Chris from Truro seeks be Scheduelling?
Stig, London, UK

What does Martin of High Wycombe mean (in Letters, Tuesday) when he says Paper Monitor is showing female qualities with its mistake? Can he please explain so I can decide whether or not to be offended?
Linda, Warrington

In response to David G's grammatical nitpicking (Letters, Tuesday) I would like to point out that both formulas and formulae are correct as the plural of formula.
Andy Nichols, London

Thanks to Brian Martin for his car bumper sticker for Monitor readers. I can't wait to see one out in the real world! I think we should develop a secret handshake for ourselves next... who knows how influential the Monitor cult will be in a few years’ time?
Sarah, Edinburgh

Re: bumper stickers tailored to suit a newspaper’s readership, (Letters, Tuesday). Here are my suggestions: Daily Star "My bumpers are bigger than Jordan's"; Daily Express "Diana bumper sticker conspiracy"; The Mirror "Spot our bumper and win a mini competition".
Mike Monk, London

Just a timely reminder to MM readers that Christmas will soon be upon us and, so as to ensure your sprouts are just right, now is the time to put them on to boil. Is this another type of Cabbaging?
Simon Rooke, Nottingham UK

Is it any wonder that we feel compelled to watch the film "Happy Feet", when the alternative employment prospects for penguins are so bad? "Penguins also star in the latest series of BBC One's Planet Earth... They return this Sunday to come under attack from seals”.
Sarah Bowyer, Reading, UK

Pedant Alert - Is that really a gyroscope that David Blaine is mounted in? It just looks to me as though he's secured in a series of gimbals. If it was a gyroscope then he should be spinning continuously and pointing in the same direction no matter which way the gimbals turn.
Kip, Norwich, UK

Re: the Telegraph's I Have Never Society. I went to to download a membership certificate, wrote in the space provided "misused an apostrophe"... and then tore it up on looking more closely at the site's Tate Britain banner ad (shown below) that reads "The largest collection of Holbeins work".
Howard, Bakewell



12:33 UK time, Wednesday, 22 November 2006


ticket.203.jpgIt's time for the Punorama results.

This week we asked you to put your thoughts to news that Christmas has come early in towns across Cornwall. A mystery man has been paying for people's shopping and handing out free lottery tickets. All while dressed in a pink fairy outfit including tutu, tiara, wings and wand and tights.

Each time he helps out he leaves a card with a picture of a fairy and a note saying: "You'll be hearing a lot about me - the Hairy Christmas Fairy."

So how did you get on? Well, some of you more than rose to the challenge.

The national lottery theme conspired to inspire many of you with It could be tutu and Truro-millions coming from Helene Parry. It Could Be Yule! cried DR and Catriona Smith.

The nicely observed In hirsute of happiness came from Jon Speechley.

Cornish place names also made a good showing, as Graeme puts it, our man is displaying The Truro meaning of Christmas.

Ho, ho ho, the level of comedy was high this week. He's Snow Scrooge observed Nigel Macarthur, Fairy's a jolly good fellow! declared Gareth Jones of Anglesey. Meanwhile Valerie Falconer just felt the fancy dress altruist was Tutu generous.

Some of you questioned the sanity of a middle aged man in a fairy pink outfit giving things away. He's Christmas Crackers said Stig.

But the winner comes via inspiration from 80s band Dire Straits. Thanks to the improbably named Ivor Wand who contributed Money from nutters and your 'tix for Fowey.

If your effort didn't quite make the grade, it has been published in the comments section below.

Paper Monitor

10:26 UK time, Wednesday, 22 November 2006


A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Ah, the Daily Telegraph. So much more than a paper, more a way of life. And how best to describe that way of life? Well, perhaps we can all guess, but its readers have inspired the paper to start a new club, called the Society of People Who Have Never, the rebels who “say no to Ikea, iPods and Pot Noodles”. You don’t say.

After the Telegraph’s normally acerbic theatre critic penned a review of the Sound of Music so glowing it put the Indie’s Sky at Night poster to shame, one of its readers wrote in in clarion tones:

“Now is the time to bring to the attention of music lovers the Society of People Who Have Not Seen The Sound of Music and Have No Intention of Doing So. I believe that I am the only member of this society.”

This prompted such a flurry of like-minded souls to declare their dislike of assorted trappings of modern life that the paper has devoted page three to the launch of its refuseniks’ society, complete with a downloadable certificate.

But here’s the rub. It is a club for people who like to think they stand out from the herd. And a club indicates, well, a herd of like-minded individuals.

Meanwhile, if anyone is as anal as Paper Monitor and fancies a special discussion about the rights and wrongs of the Times's new font/fount, then as a one-off we can do this in the "comments" field of this entry. Paper Monitor him/herself is actually coming to rather appreciate the new style, especially in headline size. Not sure that it works in the front page masthead, though.

Daily Mini-Quiz

09:36 UK time, Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Yesterday we asked, with Jackanory returning the screens, which story-teller has appeared in the show more times than any other. It's Bernard Cribbins, with 111 shows, which 61% of you correctly answered. Fifteen percent said Martin Jarvis and 24% said Kenneth Williams. Today's mini-question is on the Magazine index now.

Your Letters

16:09 UK time, Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Interesting juxtaposition of programmes whilst flicking through last night. On BBC Two "Lock them up or let them out" whilst on ITV 3 "I'm a celebrity, get me out of here". Perhaps the parole board could be expanded to decide whether or not the "celebrities" should be in the community at large, and we could vote for whether or not the prisoners get released. Can Monitorians think of names for such programatical juxtaposition.
CHris B, Truro, Cornwall, UK

My dear Paper Monitor, regarding the apostrophe in Philip's, don't you think perchance that the Indie's wall-chart of the night sky might be sponsored by Philip's being the company that produces maps etc, and does a rather nice line in 'Star Wheels' for finding your way about the aforementioned night sky, rather than the Dutch electronics giant. Hmm, PM does show female qualities with this misunderstanding.
Martin, High Wycombe, UK

Paper Monitor: It's a fair cop

Since this seems to be a grammatical nitpicking week on PM, can I point out to in his letter yesterday, Neil Golightly that the plural of formula is formulae not formulas?
DavidG, Oldbury, UK

Re James' point that font is an Americanism, when I looked up "fount" in the OED (computer version) it called it a "variant spelling of font." So I doubt the Americanism is original.
Kel, Chicago, USA

Re bumper stickers tailored to suit a newspaper's readership, the Eastern Daily Press might offer "Tractors Don't Have Bumpers". (I've decided to start putting Aylsham instead of Norwich because it sounds more up-market. More county you know.)
Kip, Aylsham, UK

Daily Mail: 'If you can't read this, you're probably an illegal immigrant'.
Rory, Sutton Coldfield UK

I wouldn't be surprised if today's excellent bumper sticker suggestions end up being quoted by Jeremy Clarkson when Top Gear returns.
Mike, Cuckfield

I've had a very dull lunchtime. So to make the most of it I've created a car sticker for fellow readers of the Magazine. Naturally it goes without saying that under no circumstances should anyone be sadder than me and actually put it up in their car. That would mean *none* of us had any moral high ground.
Brian Martin

Paper Monitor

10:17 UK time, Tuesday, 21 November 2006

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Wall-charts have given way to posters, and while the Times is still pushing its Ashes coverage, with a giant picture from the 1982 series, the Independent has been busy raising the stakes. Its free poster of the night sky GLOWS IN THE DARK. Put that in your smugly self-effacing bumper sticker and smoke it, Guardian-ites.

It's perhaps also the first poster to be sponsored – in this case by electronics giant Philips, or "Philip's" according to the Indie, which sees fit to slip an apostrophe into the brand name. Nevertheless, the introduction of big money through sponsorship opens up a whole new arena of poster possibilities.

But if Paper Monitor's experience is anything to go by, the Indie is on to a winner here, as any copy that could be hunted down in the office had already had said poster removed.

There could be some knowing glances when colleagues slip off home in the early evening, only to be betrayed by luminous formations of Ursa Minor or the Great Bear emanating through the canvas of their bags.

On another note, Neil Golightly wrote yesterday in the Monitor letters that Paper Monitor "couldn't really claim any moral high ground". How right he is. Paper Monitor is nothing if not a swamp dwelling incorrigible. The moment it crawls to the higher ground is the moment the game's up.

Daily Mini-Quiz

08:21 UK time, Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Yesterday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked who Victoria Beckham took to the Cruise-Holmes wedding instead of husband David, who had been recalled to Madrid. The correct answer was her sister, Louise. A pan, a comb and perhaps a
cat by way of congratulations to the 45% who got it right. Today's DMQ is, as ever, on the Magazine index.

Your Letters

16:35 UK time, Monday, 20 November 2006

Any chance the BBC will stop using that terrible non-word "Brits" to describe Britons? Brits is on its way to becoming a pejorative, much like Yanks, and I for one don't like it.
David Chilton, Toronto, Canada

Re today's Paper Monitor, what is wrong with calling a typeface a fount? To call it a font would be a disgusting Americanism of which there are already far too many.
James, Woodford, UK

Paper Monitor. I don't think you can really claim the moral high ground on the formulas issue, considering just how many of them have been published on this site. Here's a hint: just because you receive a press release doesn't mean you have to publish a story on it - as a well-respected news organisation you should be holding your journalism to higher standards.
Neil Golightly, Manchester, UK

Nice to know that Scotland Yard's finest have got enough time on their hands to have yet another go at identifying Jack the Ripper. (Jack the Ripper's face "revealed") Perhaps they might get round to finding out who nicked my bike when they're done.
Stig, London, UK

Yet another wonderful example of those people that seemed to be have been named for their job, can be found in Tories outline debt-busting plans". "Eric Leenders, the executive director of the British Bankers Association".
DS, Bromley, England

In 10 things we didn't know..., fact 10 about disappearing money has always been a problem for me. The reason is nothing so sinister as an illegal narcotic, just everyday living.
Tim Mcmahon, Pennar/Wales

Re: the 10 Things photo. Never mind nuts or acorns, I thought they were cockroaches.
DS, Manchester

If I may wade into the gruntled/disgruntled debate, I hate to be pedantic (I lie, it's fantastic, you should all try it) but if a pig's snout is a "gruntle", wouldn't the removal of the appendage be "de-gruntle" as opposed to "dis-gruntle"? Sorry, Jenny (again, I'm not - this is the only fun I get).
Ben Paddon, Luton, England

As the play-ground ditty goes:
If a man is not reckless
if a man is not uncouth,
if a man is not ruthless
Is he reck and couth and ruth?
Rachel, Perth, Australia

In response to Paper Monitor's request this morning for bumper stickers to suit certain newspaper readers, what about "The only thing Express about this car is the paper the driver reads."
Kip, Aylsham, UK

Rear bumper sticker for the readers of Hello Magazine - "Goodbye".
Kip, Aylsham, UK

The Telegraph's offering: "Yes actually, I do own the road."
TS, Croydon, England

The Sun "My other car gets driven by my wife - badly!"
Robin, Edinburgh

Possible future Daily Express car sticker; "Motorbike Paparazzi: If you can read this YOU'RE TOO CLOSE!". Due out next Monday perhaps.
Duncan, Hove, UK

Daily Mail reader car sticker: If you can read this, I've lost my caravan.
Lee Pike, Cardiff, UK

How to say: Tom Cruise's wedding venue

16:22 UK time, Monday, 20 November 2006


A weekly guide to words and names in the news from Martha Figueroa-Clark of the BBC Pronunciation Unit.

"This weekend saw the Hollywood couple Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes get married at Odescalchi Castle (pronounced od-es-KAL-ki) in Bracciano (pronounced bruh-CHAA-noh), Italy."

Paper Monitor

10:51 UK time, Monday, 20 November 2006

Regular readers will know that Paper Monitor loves it when papers start writing about themselves (remember the Sunday Telegraph editor saying she thought of her paper as a "bath bubble"?). And today's Times goes for it big style. The paper has got a new typeface (what it quaintly still terms a "fount"), and wants to make great play of it. Despite the fact that the last time it had a new "fount" was not, as you might think, in the days of yore - it was just four years ago.

The new fount though meets "the demanding criteria of legibility and modernity that readers of The Times demand". Funny, but those demonstrations with radical Times readers bearing beautifully legible posters demanding "MODERNITY NOW!" have escaped Paper Monitor.

There's usually so much in Monday's papers that the weekend already seems like a distant memory. But for personal reasons, Paper Monitor spent a lot of time with the papers this weekend and has some gems with which to start the week.

First, the Guardian invented a new bandwagon on Saturday. Forget wallcharts (though there was one of those too) - it came up with a CAR STICKER. It was tongue-in-cheek, saying "Yes, this journey is absolutely necessary", but it's clear that the new lines are drawn. Within a week every paper will be offering car stickers. So let's see if we can make a self-fulfilling prophesy - if readers would be so good as to suggest appropriate slogans for readers of individual papers, we'll keep tabs on whether they actually get used.

Second, Piers Morgan's column in the Mail on Sunday? It's full of the kinds of things which made his book such an entertaining but self-indulgent read. Anyone care to deconstruct this:

Paragraph 1: A prod at Jude Law for saying that giving prizes at the Pride of Britain award made him realise he was "not that important after all". Piers adds: "It reminded me of that wonderful Muhammad Ali line: 'It's hard to be humble when you're as great as I am.'"

Paragraph 11: Piers reveals he has been invited to Gordon Ramsay's 40th birthday party.

Paragraphs 12-15: Piers namechecks fellow guests Penny Smith, Chris Moyles, David Furnish, Kirsty Young, Jeremy Clarkson, Michael Winner.

Paragraph 16: Piers writes: "But most of the 350 guests weren't famous at all. They either worked for, were related to or just mates with Gordon. And they were all having the time of their lives. Such a refreshing change from the normal and ghastly, 'all my mates are celebrities, aren't I clever?' party guest list that you see every week in OK! magazine."

Answers on a postcard please.

And finally in this bumper digest, a big shout goes out to Ben Goldacre, the author of the Guardian's Bad Science column in which he takes apart some dodgy science reporting.

This week Ben writes about how lots of scientists publish press releases with formulas for everyday things, like pulling a cracker, best/worst day of the year. Ring any bells with anyone?

How about this bit: "So I have developed my own equation... The likelihood of an academic whoring their name to a PR company is calculated as GxPxIxC where G is.... " etc etc etc. You get the idea. Especially if you have followed the Monitor's Formula Won over the past two years, or indeed even remember our 2004 story Formula for the Perfect Formula? Bad science? Bad something.

Daily Mini-Quiz

10:05 UK time, Monday, 20 November 2006

Friday's Daily Mini-Quiz asked how much for a Woolies souvenir mobile phone to mark the (as yet, utterly unconfirmed) nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton. To you guv, £40 - a figure that 38% of you got right. There's another wedding-related teaser in today's Daily Mini-Quiz on the Magazine index.

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